Council house sales to fund extension of Right-to-Buy, Tories pledge

14 Apr 15

David Cameron has set out plans to extend the government’s Right-to-Buy scheme to social housing tenants, to be funded by forcing local authorities to sell off high-value council homes.

David Cameron at Conservative manifesto launch

Photo: PA


Setting out the Conservative’s manifesto today, Cameron said the party was offering people security at every stage of life. As well as helping more people to own their own homes, he said the party would increase the number of free childcare hours a week to 30 hours, and increase the tax-free personal allowance so those earning the minimum wage did not pay income tax.

Under the plans, social housing tenants will qualify for Right-to-Buy discounts in line with those set out when the scheme was ‘rebooted’ in 2012.

The party’s manifesto said it was unfair social housing tenants missed out on a right enjoyed by tenants in local authority homes. It plans to fund the replacement of housing association properties sold under the scheme by requiring local authorities to sell off their most expensive properties as they fall vacant. The money raised from the sale of council houses would also be used to create a Brownfield Fund to allow previously developed land to be prepared for additional housing.

Cameron said that Conservatives had long been committed to building a property-owning democracy, and the expansion of Right-to-Buy would help a new generation own their home.

‘As the most expensive council properties fall vacant, we are going to require councils to sell them off – and we’ll replace them with new affordable housing in the same area,’ he said. ‘That will save billions of pounds a year to re-invest in housing, to make sure more people can get a home of their own.’

There were 1.3 million families who would qualify for the scheme, he added.

Other pledges announced today included a promise to devolve powers and budgets to large cities in England if they choose to have elected mayors.

The party also committed to legislate to deliver a ‘historic deal’ for Greater Manchester, including devolution of NHS funding, as well as the creation of a directly elected mayor for the city.

Plans to allow Cambridgeshire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire East to retain 100% of growth in business rates above forecast projections will also go ahead to allow local areas to reap the benefit of decisions that boost growth locally.

Responding to the announcement on Right-to-Buy, New Local Government Network director Simon Parker said that forcing councils to sell off their highest value properties was ‘simply bad policy’.

He added: ‘Money should not be taken from hard-strapped local authorities to fund a central pot to compensate housing associations for the Conservatives’ decision to introduce Right-to-Buy with high discounts to their tenants.

‘Councils are already struggling both to house their own citizens and to make ends meet financially. We need to make it easier for councils and housing associations to build more affordable homes, not undermine their ability to do so through a giveaway to a relatively small number of existing social tenants.’

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